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Propane safety - this is important!


#1

I would venture to guess that about half, or maybe more of the US
readers of Orchid posts use propane as fuel for their torches. ALL
tanks now sold in the US have a very prominent warning “DO NOT USE
OR STORE CYLINDER INSIDE A BUILDING, GARAGE OR ENCLOSED AREA”!

A 20lb, (approx. 5 gal.) propane tank that leaks inside a closed
building is capable of destroying something the size of a small
house. These are the tanks normally used for RV’s and home
barbecues. Basement storage is the worst place to keep one! Even the
little 4lb tanks can take out a room.

If you are using propane, keep the tank OUTSIDE your building. Have
a licensed plumber install a gas line with proper permits and
inspection. Where we live, outside the city limits, (in San Joaquin
County, California) most houses are plumbed for propane heating and
cooking. This makes it easy to add a line for shop use.

An insurance company will not pay out on claims where the owner of
the property clearly ignores the warning on the propane tank. If you
can read – you have NO excuse! I have an acquaintance who recently
lost his house this way. The insurance company refused to pay a
dime, saying that he contributed to the destruction of his home by
storing the fuel tank inside the house…

Use flashback arrestors. They are cheaper than new gauges. ( I do
not understand the previous posts that seem to advocate creating a
flashback on purpose by shutting off the fuel first, and then the
oxygen… Whether the “manual” says so or not – this is wrong!)

Buy a gas leak detector and install it, you only have to plug it
into an outlet and place it underneath your soldering bench. Frei
Borel and Stuller both stock them. DON’T get yourself reincarnated
any earlier than your destiny mandates by flipping a light switch!
The warning from the detector can save you or someone you love.

Use the “T” grade hoses made for use with propane - NOT the common
hoses rated for acetylene.

DON’T use butane cigarette lighters or matches anywhere on your
soldering bench, use welders strikers or the new electronic
ignitors.

Shut down the entire system at the end of every day. My setup has
three separate cutoffs, at the tanks, at the manifold where the
lines go into the building, and at each soldering position where the
hoses connect into the main line. After the shut down bleed the
hoses. Back off your regulator screw.

Check for leaks anywhere along the entire line at regular intervals.
I do this after every six week workshop, before beginning the next
workshop.

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
2207 Lucile Ave.
Stockton, CA 95209
209-957-6731
209-477-0550 Workshop/Classrooms


#2

Hello Orchidians, Heads up on a recent regulation change related to
the 20# propane tanks. They have to be fitted with a new valve,
identified with a triangular handle, or they can’t be refilled.
You’ll either buy a new tank or have the proper valve installed in
your old tank. At least that was my experience a couple weeks ago
in Kansas. Judy in Kansas


#3

Actually, there is a work-around. (At least it worked for me and
most of the people I know).

Instead of having your tank refitted with the new vale (at your
expense), just take the tank down to Home Depot or Lowells and
exchange it for one of their filled used tanks. This works out
nicely. The used tank you get back will already have the new valve
in it, and the cost is only that of the refill (about $20).

Silverfoot-

Jewelry Designer and Craftsman
Main Site = www.firescale.com


#4

Some folks seem to’ve read me wrong or maybe I failed to write that
warning clearly enough.

I’m really not afraid that the propane tanks themselves are gonna
leak, though it has happened… The warnings are on the tanks for
several reasons – the first is protect the manufacturer of these
tanks from extra liability, and another is to advise you against
(and hopefully prevent) you from accumulating quantities of
potentially explosive gas in your store, workshop, or home. In the
event of contributing disasters, for example bench fires, building
fires, earthquakes, and such – there is less likelihood that your
20 lb. tank propane tank will accelerate the damage. You also have
the option of being able to turn off the source of the fuel from
outside the building without putting yourself at risk to whatever
may have gone wrong inside the building…

Putting the tanks and regulators outside your building eliminates 3
potential leak sources – the tank itself, the valve on the tank,
and the regulator. You still have the pipe inside the building,
valves at the bench, hoses, and the torch valves to worry about. And
you should. As you should be aware of what insurance companies are
disallowing on claims…

It is not difficult nor expensive to set up this way. It is safer,
legal, and insurable. Why gamble?

That was the intent of the post.

Brian


#5

Brian,

I have a Meco Midget soldering system from Frei and Borel that has a
one-gallon (non-disposable) propane tank and is supposed to have
flashback arrestors – at least I ordered them and paid for them. I
do check it with leak detector fluid from Rio. I’m now confused and
more than a little upset at Frei, because it’s obvious that most of
the people who buy this system from Frei are going to use it indoors
(frankly, I don’t know a single jeweler who solders outdoors). There
the warning is, right on the tank, but Frei and Borel said nothing to
me about safety, or not using it indoors.

It sounds like I cannot even get my insurance to cover this problem,
since the tank should not be used indoors, period. Like everyone
else here, I cannot afford to lose my house.

The system has had lots of problems. Right out of the box, it came
with the “fuel” and “oxygen” labels (which are stamped into the
metal) reversed, and the handpiece had to be exchanged. The Uniweld
oxygen regulator failed after six months of light use; when I took it
back to Frei, the salesperson told me that they were in fact lousy
regulators, and Frei wasn’t using them anymore. (So I’m not sleeping
easy that the flashback arrestors work, either). Should I just junk
this and get an acetylene/oxygen Little Torch, which is not so
dangerous?

We do have natural gas in the house. Brian, I’m in the east bay
about an hour away from you, can you recommend a local plumber that
would understand how to run a gas line into my Meco Midget system?
There have been other recommendations this week on Orchid about doing
that, and it sounds like it might be the best way to go.

Thanks, Mona


#6

hi My solution was to switch to one pound cylinders, then I refill
then from a bulk tank with an adapter I picked up at a local
hardware store. That way I only have a small amount of propane in
side at a time. I still use a “R” series oxygen.

ROBERT L. MARTIN
Gold Smith / Diamond Setter
yukhan@aol.com
<>< john 3:16


#7
    hi My solution was to switch to one pound cylinders, then I
refill then from a bulk tank with an adapter I picked up at a local
hardware store. That way I only have a small amount of propane in
side at a time. I still use a "R" series oxygen. 

But if you REALLY want to get picky, the label on the canisters say
the cannisters are not to be refilled, period. I feel what is going
on here is an attempt to allow people to not get hurt, cause
problems, burn up their house, etc. and not having to think/use the
old brain that god gave us. Just like the label on any ladder that
says not to stand on the top step, or the sign “don’t smoke while
pumping gas” or any one of the millions of other situations that
"COULD" cause a problem if somebody just doesn’t think about what
they are doing. Do I really need a label on a candy bar stating
that the paper label should be removed before eating the bar, or the
cardboard box the TV dinner comes in should be removed before the
"meal" is put in the oven to heat it? The use of common sense is
being lost by all of these “rules” and regulations.

YES there is a potential hazard having a propane bottle in your
house. Insurance companies are constantly looking for ways to keep
from paying claims. At what point is one willing to be responsible
for their actions and the resulting consequences? I guess one must
do what one thinks is correct.

I could go on but I won’t. My common sense is telling me I should
go to bed and get some sleep so I can be alert tomorrow to keep from
getting hurt in any one of a zillion areas that I work in.

JD


#8
At what point is one willing to be responsible for their actions
and the resulting consequences?  I guess one must do what one
thinks is correct. 

Thank you for hitting the mark, If more people were willing to take
responsibilities for their own actions, and used a modicum of not
necessarily Intelligence, just a bit of common sense they would
realize that if you are going to keep some thing Explosive in their
house or workshop for that matter. They would be smart enough to
check the hoses periodically, check around the valves, tighten not
just the fitting but also the nut at the top of the cylinder valve in
the case of Acetylene and Oxygen, This is where the leaks most often
occur, Just remembering that your not trying to tighten a head bolt
on grandpas flat head ford. But if you can turn the valve real easy
then it’s probably leaking there, Check the fittings where the
regulators go, especially on the 40 ft. acetylene tanks because so
many times the threads are banged up. If they are take the cylinder
back, The welding supply shops understand how dangerous this can be,
Lastly If you can’t afford an bottle of leak detector, Just make a
small bit by using dish soap and water about 1/3rd soap brush some on
the fittings where you tighten the regulators. And on top valves, If
you see bubbles then you have a leak. Also check periodically unless
you don’t consider the consequences important. Please keep those
cylinders chained or secured in a welding cart, Even a wooden box 18
or so inches tall will prevent the 40 ft B&R series tanks from
getting knocked over, I saw a 120 ft Oxygen cylinder go through a
concrete wall after falling over and breaking the valve off, while I
was working in a machine shop years a go Just remember it’s Your
house, Your shop and Your Life; two out of three can be replaced


#9

I for one am willing to admit that safety is the best course of
action. There are surely horror stories…and if you own your home
it may not be an issue…(rentals) but this thread just makes
torch work all the more nightmarish for a beginner. Be safe and
check your system. i know very few bench (in home) smiths that have
a complex, outside routed in, or natural gas bleed in system. nobody
wants to admit what they use now…because it is not smith or
jewelry PC. i hope i am not one to find out…(accident) but i will
stand vigilant with my checks on my equipment and use it as a
professional. E